Alta’s Onno Wieringa gets skiing’s national lifetime achievement award

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Onno Wieringa, who spent 45 years at Alta Ski Area before retiring last year as general manager, has been given a lifetime achievement award by the National Ski Areas Association.

Onno Wieringa, who ran Alta Ski Area for 29 years before retiring after the 2016-17 season, received a lifetime achievement award last weekend from the National Ski Areas Association.

“He has long been known as an innovator, environmental steward and tireless contributor to the ski industry,” said a news release from the Denver-based association, which was holding its annual convention in Marco Island, Fla.

Two other Utah resorts took home national honors from the convention.

Alta’s neighbor in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, won the award for best overall marketing program for resorts attracting more than 500,000 visitors annually.

The award for best safety program at resorts receiving fewer than 500,000 annual visitors went to Snowbasin Resort above Ogden. Snowbasin also captured the association’s Conversion Cup Challenge, an effort to turn new skiers and snowboarders into lifelong snowsports enthusiasts. It beat out Boreal Mountain Resort in California and Les Sommets in Quebec.

| Courtesy Alta Ski Area A youthful Onno Wieringa, right, is seen with his predecessor as Alta's general manager, Chic Morton.

But the biggest honor went to Wieringa, a Montana native who arrived at Alta in 1972, working as a ski patroller and a bartender at Alta’s Rustler Lodge. He became the head of Alta’s snow-safety department in 1978, spending a decade in that role before replacing Chic Morton as the resort’s general manager in 1988.

“Throughout his career, Wieringa was a true innovator,” the association’s recognition noted, citing his role in installing the “Magic Carpet” loading belt at Supreme lift and adding an angle station to the Collins lift when it replaced the older Collins and Germania lifts.

He also was singled out for putting safety bars on chairs, employing technology to read computerized lift tickets at the bottom of lifts, forming a partnership with Snowbird on its AltaBird lift ticket and starting Alta’s offering of free — later $5 — skiing after 3 p.m.

(Courtesy Alta Ski Area) Onno Wieringa

But more than anything, the association emphasized, “Wieringa’s expertise and leadership in the snow safety area are legendary.”

“His unwavering discipline and calm demeanor positioned him well for the task,” the commendation said, calling him “a pioneer in avalanche control and the use of military weapons and explosives. With Wieringa at the helm, Alta set the bar high for advancements in snow safety and is greatly respected in the broader community as a result.”